Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 22, 1962
NUMBER 45, PAGE 1,12

"The Narrow Sectarian Spirit"

Robert H. Farish, Lufkin Texas

Brother Reuel Lemmons, editor of FIRM FOUNDATION, in his editorial of January 30, 1962, makes several charges against the GOSPEL GUARDIAN, its editor, and other brethren. He says, "It seems that he (Yater Tant) is determined to make himself a place in history as the founder of a sect." Of the action of the Caprock church in Lubbock, the Westside church in Fort Worth and the Central church in Beaumont in supporting a preacher in Cleburne, he says, "And now self-righteous Pharisaism sends Cleburne a missionary!" He also says, "These brethren are not interested in lost souls in Cleburne or Waco. They are interested in perpetrating a faction and in splitting the body of Christ." After presenting the actions of these brethren under the very prejudicial figure of one picking up his marbles and going home "just because everybody doesn't play the game exactly to his liking," he says, "this is the narrow sectarian spirit." Well, if I were the "heart searcher" and saw such determinations and attitudes in the hearts of men I suppose that I would also say that that was the narrow, sectarian spirit, or worse) This power however, is not possessed by me, or any other man, according to the apostle Paul who wrote, "For who among men knoweth the things of a man save the spirit of the man, which is in him?" (I Cor. 2:11)

In the midst of all these charges one is startled by being suddenly confronted with the statement — "The bitter rantings and unbrotherly raving that fills certain papers and church bulletins is a disgrace to the cause of Christ." AMEN! But surely Brother Lemmons made a mistake when he put this sentence in this context! The brother must not realize what he is saying, when in the midst of these charges, which assign base motives to the actions of brethren, he blurts out this condemnation of "bitter ranting and unbrotherly raving." Is this editorial a sample of Brother Lemmons' style of kindly correction and brotherly reasoning?

An editorial called "Where To Worship When Traveling," which was written by Brother Tant, is the thing which Brother Lemmons takes off on in his unfortunate editorial. Read the editorial in the Nov. 23, 1961 issue of the Guardian and see if it can be fairly taken as evidence that "the narrow sectarian spirit" prompted the editor in writing this editorial or that the listing of faithful churches on these pages in the Guardian is a manifestation of a "narrow sectarian spirit"? "Come now and let us reason together" and not engage in "bitter ranting and unbrotherly ravings."

In 1906, Brother J. W. Shepherd compiled a list or census of the churches of Christ. The view was widely expressed that this action was a chief factor in the division, or at least in terminating fellowship between the two groups. Many people who are identified with the Christian Church or Disciples of Christ denomination hold this view. The sentiment that is was a "narrow sectarian spirit" which caused people to refuse to go along with the ones who used the instrument in worship came from many tongues and pens. W. K. Homan wrote, "One who admits that the New Testament is silent as to the use of an organ as an aid to the worship of God in song, and yet refuses Christian recognition and fellowship to Christians who exercise the liberty that God has left them to use such aid, is guilty of flagrant sectarianism in attempting to make a law for God's people where God has made none, and is a divider of the body of Christ...." The Search for the Ancient Order, Earl West.

Question — Was W. K Homan correct then and is Reuel Lemmons correct now in their charges of "flagrant sectarianism," "attempting to make a law for God's people where God has made none," "a divider of the Body of Christ," "the founder of a sect," "self righteous Pharisaism," "narrow sectarian spirit," "splitting the body of Christ," etc.? This question cannot be intelligently answered until one knows what action provoked these charges and the design of the actions.

What is this thing which stirred Brother Lemmons to such strong language and which he claimed would shock brethren? Is it "shock" or "chagrin" that this "separate listing" is causing?

The Gospel Guardian carries advertisements of loyal churches under the heading "Where To Worship When Traveling." This service is provided at a modest price to the churches. It is very helpful to tourists and other travelers in their efforts to locate a group of people with whom they may "worship the Father in spirit and truth." Churches which use an instrument of music in worship cannot obtain listing in this section. We pause here to ask, does this manifest a determination upon the part of the editor of the Gospel Guardian to "make himself a place in history as a founder of a sect"? Is he even encouraging a sect which has already been founded? Now if Brother Lemmons finds some fault with this policy of refusing to solicit or accept advertisement from churches which use an instrument of music in worship, many of which still call themselves churches of Christ, will he in a kind and brotherly way point it out to the readers of the journal which he edits?

The same policy of excluding certain churches from the "listing" prevails with reference to those churches which still call themselves churches of Christ who in their practices manifest a disregard for the divine pattern of organization and work of the church. Why should any one think that God will look with approval upon innovations in this area but not in the other?

The Firm Foundation has for a number of years published a book listing the churches of Christ in various locations. Are there any churches listed therein which use a piano or organ in worship? Is the absence of listings of such churches evidence of "the narrow sectarian spirit"? I feel confident that Brother Lemmons does not think that such is motivated by "the narrow sectarian spirit" nor that the Firm Foundation is guilty of "self-righteous Pharisaism," in publishing the list of the churches of Christ.

The question of "fellowship" as it relates to where to worship is not an easy one. Neither is it a new problem for we find it figuring prominently in discussions of former days. Brother Earl West puts it concisely — "Those who conscientiously believed the instrument a sinful addition to the worship could not have gone to the service where it was used, and worshipped with it, without directly violating their consciences. Therefore, once the instrument was introduced, they, believing as they did that its use was sinful, had little other choice than to leave, and band together and worship without it."

"This problem being settled in the individual's mind, there came a new problem. Could this band of people who came together determined to worship without the instrument and the former group that worshipped with it continue in fellowship? Considered from a practical standpoint, this was impossible. That body of people who refused the worship with the instrument soon found that if they allowed preachers who favored the instrument to come in, that in time it was a reoccurrence of the old trouble, a division within the congregation. To prevent this constantly recurring division they were forced to use those public teachers who did not believe in the use of the instrument, and also, teach the flock against it. Thus from a practical standpoint there was no other step to take.

In taking this drastic step which was clearly unavoidable, they must meet the accusations of the proponents of the instrument, viz. that they were making the instrument a test of fellowship, and were, therefore, causing division. Actually, of course, these lines of fellowship were definitely drawn by both sides. Advocates of the instrument were as consistent in their refusal to use preachers who would preach against the instrument as those opposed to the instrument were in their refusal to use preachers who would preach for it" (emphasis mine. R.H.F.)

Brother Lemmons tells us that "a sect is like a wasp; it is larger at the time it is born than it is at any other time." What is the point? Is Brother Lemmons "whistling in the dark"? Is he indulging in some wishful thinking? Well, in my judgment he will be disappointed for there remain many who have not "relaxed and joined the popular movement."

"When the innovations began to be introduced into the work and worship of the church a century ago, strong opposition resulted. With the passing of a few years some, even of the more intrepid opposers sensing that these were going to be popular despite their opposition, relaxed and joined the popular movement. Others, however, with more trenchant consciences found it impossible to yield." (Search For The Ancient Order, p. 449)

There are still people who operate on conviction. These by the help of God will not be cowed by "the bitter rantings and unbrotherly ravings that fill certain papers." Neither will they be sneered into silence and inactivity in their efforts to save the souls of men and women who are in bondage to error. Let wasps shrivel up and sects diminish in size, that is what is natural for wasps and what ought to happen to sects. But let us, like Elisha of old, put our trust in God and not in numbers, with the assurance which was Elisha's that "they that are with us are more than they that are with them." "God and one man make a majority."